April 2015 (No. 35)

AJ Huffman
Singing Without Words

She has not reached her first birthday,

has not conquered the brain/tongue coordination

to form a single, multi-syllabic word, and yet

this diminutive diva stands, center stage

in her playpen, screeches in tune to whatever

musical, quasi-reality nightmare is playing on TV. As if

psychically linked with the songs she cannot possibly

understand, she breaks at appropriate intervals, changes

pitch and tone to suit her vision of another redundant cover

tune. Minnie-Mouse-eared microphone, firmly gripped

in fist, she is the true star of this show, does not stop

as long as the orchestra plays.

Salena Casha
Twins and Twines

We used to be bound up

in stitches.

Immobile, prone, breathless,

our seams rending

from a joke

whose ghost haunts my

unfastened mind.

I never thought it would unravel,

that we would become dis

joint, spliced by the paring

knife of a single crack

on a windshield.

Our twinned laughter skipped

and tripped and


as we wrenched to

a grinding halt, ending


like spider-web silk

snapped off in a car door.

You and me

a We,

twinned and twined,

our sutures clumsy

done by hands unable

to bind us with

thin wisps of

spent mirth.

They sewed you up,

cold skin pierced and piqued

in scarred black


A sentence you never

wanted set in



I waited for the

severed sky to settle, my

stitches left loose in bloody

gossamer strings.

Over and over,

I pinched at the threads,

unable to knot myself back


Margie Shaheed

1:00 AM Newark, NJ 07106

She: “Can I please gid a free ride? Me and mah boyfrien’ jus’ got in na fight and he threw me outta tha house wid no money. Ah’m jus’ tryin’ to go to mah mama’s house.”

Bus Driver: “MISS! We don’t give free rides! But, gon. Ah’ll let chu go dis time. Go sit down.”

She: “Thank you. God bless.”

11:01 PM Cleveland, OH 44105

The paradigm for safety has shifted. As I’m getting ready to leave my daughter’s house she tells me not to go to the same bus stop I used earlier in the day because at night it’s dangerous. She said a few weeks ago a man was beaten and shot on his way to that bus stop late at night. I blame myself for not leaving earlier. I dread the only alternative—a 10 minute walk out of the way to the other bus stop where the street is lit, although dimly, and the bus is known to run slower at night. Her boyfriend insists on walking with me to the bus stop, and says he’ll wait for the bus to come. Outside, the cold has thrown a damp cloth over the night air. We brace ourselves for the long walk. When we finally get to the bus stop he puts my bag down on the ground. And, as is habit for folks who catch the bus, we take turns walking to the curb, leaning our bodies over its edge like question marks. We angle our heads in the direction of the bus and look up the street—and as if waiting for Jesus to come back—with conviction, we keep constant tabs on the bus’ headlights because doing this makes us feel like it will make the bus come quicker. The bus arrives 20 minutes late.

12:20 AM East Cleveland, OH 44112

The houses surrounding the bus stop are sad and desolate. Dilapidated and overgrown. I’m tired and just want to be at home in my bed. The schedule says the bus won’t come for another 25 minutes—so I wait. I need a car I think to myself. A man walks up, speaks to me, and sits down, careful not to invade my personal space. The chrome bench is cool under my thighs. It’s quiet. At first we don’t talk then the man lights a cigarette and asks me between puffs how long have I been waiting. I tell him about 15 minutes. I notice on the ground to the left of me is a pile of clothes lying next to a garbage can. I wonder why the clothes didn’t make it in the bin. It’s raining so they’re soaked and littered with city dirt. Bored, I get up from the bench and find a stick nearby. I use it to fish the items out of the pile one by one: an electric blue swim suit, black stretch pants, a yellow flowered hoodie, a white bra, and one sneaker. I look up at the man who’s been watching me all the time and I say, “I wonder what story these clothes do tell.” He looks directly at me, shrugs, and says, “who cares?”

Joseph Johnston
Int. Kitchen Table – Night

skunk wafting through open window

weak firecrackers from storefront dealer

ditch weed same source

it’s a high sky summer

and I’m 16 and delivering papers at

five in the morning and it’s too dark

and too early to be this hot

later that afternoon a devil in my ear

will suggest a trip to Shields for rush

and new music, pulling a gun on an old

lady for cutting us off on the return trip

it’s a high sky summer and

the air in the whole house is thick and wet

with that skunk and

that ditch weed and

those firecrackers and

the remembrance of a

terrified old lady in a

modest hatchback

Russell Brickey
Overhead as a Grandmother Explains Moses to Her Grandchild

…but you know, Moses was

over 900 years old.

Although sometimes

I wonder

if they was on

the same calendar as us…


A.J. Huffman has published eleven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new poetry collection, Another Blood Jet, is now available from Eldritch Press. She has two more poetry collections forthcoming: A Few Bullets Short of Home, from mgv2>publishing and Degeneration, from Pink Girl Ink. She is a Multiple Pushcart Prize nominee, and has published over 2100 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. www.kindofahurricanepress.com.

Salena Casha’s work has appeared in over 30 publications. She was a finalist for the 2013-2014 Boston Public Library’s Children’s Writer-in-Residence. Her first three picture books were published by MeeGenius Books, one of which was featured in the PBS Kids Summer Learning Project 2014. She is represented by Carolyn Jenks of the Carolyn Jenks Agency.

Margie Shaheed is a community poet, writer and teaching artist. Her manuscript, The Playground is the winner of the Hidden Charm Press Chapbook Contest and is scheduled to be published in June, 2015. Her chapbook, Mosaic published by NightBallet Press released June 2013 is in its 20th print run. As well, her work has appeared in print journals including Essence Magazine, Black Magnolias, The Mom Egg Review, Blackberry and online at TimBookTu and Femficatio.

Joseph Johnston is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and musical instrument repair technician from Michigan. He received a BA from Alma College in 1997. His short movies have been selected and rewarded on the Midwest regional festival circuit and last year his film “Fragments” was the winner of the Iron Horse Literary Review’s inaugural video literature competition. His poetry and prose have appeared in Rawboned and Old Northwest Review. He resides in metro Detroit with his wife and two children and is currently working on a documentary about the history of boxing in Detroit.

Russell Brickey has collections out from Aldritch Press and Spuyten Duyvil Press, and forthcoming from Wild Leaf Press (Fall 2104). He holds an MFA from Purdue University.